Saturday, April 11, 2015

Indo-Pak Rescue Efforts Amid Yemen Crisis; MQM vs PTI in Karachi NA-246

Would humanitarian cooperation in Yemen help improve India-Pakistan bilateral ties? 

Is Yemen crisis defusing? 

Are hardliners like Iran MP Alireza Zakani adding fuel to the intense fires burning in 4 Middle Eastern countries? What role can Pakistani and Iranian moderates play to reduce growing risks of a broader Shia-Sunni sectarian war in the Muslim world? 

Has PTI's NA-246 challenge put MQM on the back-foot in Altaf Husain's stronghold around Azizabad, Liaquatabad, and Karimabad in Karachi? Is it the beginning of the end of MQM dominance in Karachi?

ViewPoint from Overseas host Misbah Azam ( discusses these and other questions with panelists Ali H CemendtaurFaraz Darvesh and Riaz Haq ( in Silicon Valley, California, USA.

Indo-Pak Rescue Efforts Amid Yemen Crisis; MQM vs PTI in Karachi NA-246 from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Role in Yemen Crisis

Gangs of Karachi

Iran-Saudi Proxy War

Viewpoint From Overseas Vimeo Channel

Viewpoint From Overseas Youtube Channel


Behram A. said...

America Has Abdicated Its Guiding Role in the Middle East to a Sectarian Arab Military Force

Riaz Haq said...

Behram: "America Has Abdicated Its Guiding Role in the Middle East to a Sectarian Arab Military Force"

Read Ali Khedery, ex-US advisor on Iraq, explain how the US helped Iran become dominant in the region by destroying Saddam and Taliban and then support sectarian Nouri al Maleki become prime minister. These US actions alienated the Sunni Arabs, made room for ISIS ad fueled sectarian conflict in Middle East.

Afreen said...

Ali Reza Zakani said: "The Yemeni revolution will not be confined to Yemen alone. It will extend, following its success, into Saudi territories. The Yemeni-Saudi vast borders will help accelerate its reach into the depths of Saudi land"

The Iranian Rasa News Agency quoted Zakani saying to the Iranian parliament that Iran is passing through the phase of "grand jihad". He pointed out that this phase requires a special policy and a cautious approach because it may lead to many repercussions.

He said that Iranian officials should be informed as to what is taking place in the regional arena and acquaint themselves with political players that influence the region's states. He drew attention to the necessity of supporting movements that function within the Iranian revolution's framework in order to end oppression and assist the oppressed in the Middle East.

Zakani went on to say that prior to the victory of the Iranian Islamic revolution in Iran there were two fundamental currents that constituted the American axis in the region, explaining: "there was Saudi Islam and Turkish secularism. But after the success of the Iranian revolution the political equation in the region changed in Iran's favour. Today we are at the peak of our strength, we impose our will and our strategic interest on everyone in the region."

With regard to Yemen, Zakani considered the Yemeni revolution to be a natural extension of the Iranian revolution and predicted that 14 out of 20 Yemeni provinces will soon come under the control of the Houthis. Their influence will reach into Saudi Arabia itself. He said: The Yemeni revolution will not be confined to Yemen alone. It will extend, following its success, into Saudi territories. The Yemeni-Saudi vast borders will help accelerate its reach into the depths of Saudi land"

Riaz Haq said...

Dubai — The UAE on Friday strongly condemned a Pakistani decision to stay out of the conflict in Yemen, rejecting Saudi demands for Islamabad to join its military coalition against Houthi rebels.

“The Arabian Gulf is in a dangerous confrontation, its strategic security is on the edge, and the moment of truth distinguishes between the real ally and the ally of media and statements,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash tweeted after a unanimous resolution passed by a special session of Pakistan’s parliament.

The resolution, however, backed the government’s commitment to protect Saudi Arabia’s territory, which has so far not been threatened by the conflict.

Gargash said Pakistan is required to show a clear stand in favour of its strategic relations with the six-nation Arab Gulf cooperation Council, as contradictory and ambiguous views on this serious matter will have a heavy price to pay.

“This is nothing but another chapter of laggard impartial stand,” Gargash said, criticising identical views held by Turkey and Iran about the armed conflict in Yemen, as affirmed by the Turkish foreign minister, who had said a political way out of the crisis is the responsibility of Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Tehran seems to be more important to Islamabad and Ankara than the Gulf countries, Gargash added. “Though our economic and investment assets are inevitable, political support is missing at critical moments,” Gargash said.

“The vague and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security — from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries, and the crisis is a real test for neighbouring countries.”

The Pakistan parliament resolution turned down long-standing ally Riyadh’s request for troops, ships and warplanes, saying: “Pakistan should play a mediating role and not get involved in fighting in Yemen.”

“Parliament of Pakistan...underscores the need for continued efforts by the government of Pakistan to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis,” the resolution said.

“(Parliament) desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis.”

Saudi Mufti calls for youth conscription

Riyadh — The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al Shaikh, who is also chairman of the senior scholars authority has called for military conscription of youth.

Shaikh Abdul Aziz said: “We must prepare our youth properly to become a shield for us in the holy war against the enemies of religion and the nation.”

In his Friday sermon at Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh, he said: “We should well look after our youth and prepare them for enlistment, which will enable them dis-charge their duties effectively.”

“This step is important for our youth towards their religion and for protecting their homeland,” he said, adding that the nation should always be prepared to face enemies.

“We are leading a secure life, a boon that others envied us for,” Shaikh Abdul Aziz said and added that while we should be thankful to Allah for this mercy, our nation should remain alert to defend the religion and country through compulsory military training.

“We should be careful and cautious of the enemies who want to spoil our religion, morals and economy, as well as destroying our unity”, he said, adding that to face such chal-lenges, “we must prepare our youth militarily, intellectually and educationally”.

Riaz Haq said...

(Sectarian conflict in Pakistan) coincided with the onset of the Islamic Revolution of Imam Khomeini in Iran and the threat its “export” posed to Saudi Arabia and other Arab states across the Gulf.
Pakistanis invariably blame Saudi Arabia and Iran for the violence since the two countries funded and trained the partisans of this war. Both are aware that Pakistan was subjected to someone else’s “relocated” war. Much of the internal dynamic of this war remains hidden from public view. A kind of embarrassment over the phenomenon of Muslim-killing-Muslim has prevented Pakistanis from inquiring frankly into how the two hostile states were able to transplant their conflict in Pakistan.
Sectarian violence has drawn its strength from the past too. The schismatic past was concealed behind two important layers of governance. First, the Raj was able to almost completely uproot the Sunni-Shia confrontation during its tenure from 1857 to 1947. A refusal to recognise the jurisprudence of takfir (apostatisation) and a competent encoding of the Muslim Family Law, separating the two sects, almost buried the conflict that had its seeds in the 7th century.
The Pakistan Movement in India that resulted in the creation of Pakistan against the wishes of Great Britain and the secularists of India was spearheaded by the two sects together. The movement carried the promise of a finally successful coexistence and possible integration of the two sects. Early governance in Pakistan was in some ways an extension of the secular impartiality of the Raj. However, after Independence in 1947, two developments took place that sowed the seeds of sectarianism that were to bear fruit later on.
Pakistan began to look for its identity in the stance its representative political party, the All-India Muslim League, had adopted during its competition with the secular and much larger All-India National Congress. Because of the early military conflict with India in 1947, Pakistan’s nationalism began to coalesce positively around Islam and negatively around India. Its textbooks sought their exemplary personalities in historical Muslim “utopias” and imagined “golden ages” that highlighted the particularism of Muslim identity instead of its “liminal” cross-fertilisation with Hinduism at the cultural level.
Pakistani textbooks went back to pre-Raj days and selected periods of Muslim rule where pluralism was at its lowest, and highlighted instead the separation of Hinduism from Islam. (Liberal Mughal kings who treated the Hindus well also accepted the Shia as Muslims.) Most of this selection turned out to be sectarian. While it set Muslims and Hindus apart it also emphasised the conflict between Sunni and Shia communities. In the early period of Pakistan’s history, ignorance of the schism – or amnesia induced by the Raj interregnum – allowed this bias to go unnoticed.
During the Saudi-Iranian standoff in 1980, Pakistan was drawn to the Saudi side for a number of reasons. It had a large expatriate labour force stationed in the Arab Middle East, particularly in the region of the Gulf where the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was formed in 1980 to ward off the Iranian threat. Before 9/11, almost 80 percent of Pakistan’s “foreign remittances” were earned from this region. Saudi Arabia was also the most important ally – after the United States – in “frontline” Pakistan’s war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan: Nationalism Without A Nation
By Christophe Jaffrelot

Chapter 4 by Mariam Abou Zahab on sectarian conflict in Pakistan after the Iranian Islamic Revolution and Zia's Islamization in 1980s.

Iran funded scholarships for Pakistani rural Shia to study its version of Islam in Iran then return to Pakistan while Saudi Arabia funded sunni madrassas in Pakistan.'s%20sectarian%20agenda&f=false

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Seeks to Calm Relations With Gulf States Over #Yemen. #Iran #UAE #SaudiArabia via @business

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought to soothe relations with key Gulf allies after his country’s refusal to join a coalition of Sunni-led Muslim nations fighting in Yemen triggered a rift with trading partners that supply most of its oil.
“Pakistan does not abandon friends and strategic partners especially at a time when their security is under threat,” Sharif said Monday in a televised speech in Islamabad. “My government continues to follow the policy of fortifying and strengthening the bonds of friendship with the Gulf countries.”
His comments came after Anwar Mohammed Gargash -- second-in-charge at the United Arab Emirates’ foreign ministry -- said over the weekend that Pakistan would pay a “high cost” for its “contradictory and ambiguous stance.”
The spat shows the risks oil-dependent Pakistan faces in trying to avoid taking sides in the battle between Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, and the group of Arab nations. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. provide almost all of Pakistan’s oil, according to a petroleum ministry official who asked not to be identified because the data aren’t public.
Pakistan’s parliament passed a unanimous, though non-binding, resolution on April 10 declaring support for Saudi Arabia’s “territorial integrity,” but falling short of accepting a demand from Riyadh’s leadership to send ground, air and sea troops to fight the Houthis.
Pakistan’s benchmark KSE100 Index fell 0.3 percent Monday, partly in reaction to Gargash’s remarks.
‘Shoulder to Shoulder’
“Some concerns on the tension developing with U.A.E.,” Baryalay Arbab, head of equity at KASB Securities Ltd., wrote in an e-mail. “Good chunk of remittances come from the GCC,” he said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, to which both Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. belong.
The Pakistani government has been in touch with Saudi Arabia and its allies in the GCC “to assure them that their disappointment was based on an apparent misinterpretation of parliament’s resolution,” Sharif said Monday. “Our firm assurance to our Saudi brothers is that we shall stand shoulder to shoulder with them.”
He reiterated that any violation of Saudi territorial integrity would provoke a “strong response” from Pakistan.
Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Sunday had called Gargash’s remarks “threatening, unacceptable and an insult to the Pakistani nation,” according to a report in Dawn newspaper.
The April 10 parliamentary vote came shortly after Pakistan hosted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Islamabad. Saleh bin Abdul-Aziz, Saudi Arabia’s Islamic affairs minister, arrived in Pakistan’s capital late on Sunday for urgent talks on Yemen, the Dawn reported.
Besides oil, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. host several million Pakistanis who work in jobs like construction, making them the top providers of remittances. The emirates are also preferred destinations for Pakistanis to invest in real estate, according to Mirza Ikhtiar Baig, who heads the Pakistan-U.A.E. Business Council based in Karachi.
“We have commercial interests in the United Arab Emirates which we do not want to see hurt,” Baig said by phone. “A government delegation should go there and explain our stance and hold closed-door meetings to calm the U.A.E. government.”
Many Pakistani lawmakers said that picking sides would fuel sectarian conflict in the country, which is already fighting militants. While the majority of Pakistanis are Sunni, the nation is home to the most Shiite Muslims outside of Iran and Shiite mosques have been regular targets of terrorist attacks in Pakistan in recent years.

Riaz Haq said...

Stratfor's George Friedman on US role in current Middle East regional conflict:

There are two varieties of indirect warfare. The first is supporting native forces whose interests are parallel. This was done in the early stages of Afghanistan. The second is maintaining the balance of power among nations. We are seeing this form in the Middle East as the United States moves between the four major regional powers — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey — supporting one then another in a perpetual balancing act. In Iraq, U.S. fighters carry out air strikes in parallel with Iranian ground forces. In Yemen, the United States supports Saudi air strikes against the Houthis, who have received Iranian training.

This is the essence of empire. The British saying is that it has no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. That old cliche is, like most cliches, true. The United States is in the process of learning that lesson. In many ways the United States was more charming when it had clearly identified friends and enemies. But that is a luxury that empires cannot afford.

We are now seeing the United States rebalance its strategy by learning to balance. A global power cannot afford to be directly involved in the number of conflicts that it will encounter around the world. It would be exhausted rapidly. Using various tools, it must create regional and global balances without usurping internal sovereignty. The trick is to create situations where other countries want to do what is in the U.S. interest.

This endeavor is difficult. The first step is to use economic incentives to shape other countries' behavior. It isn't the U.S. Department of Commerce but businesses that do this. The second is to provide economic aid to wavering countries. The third is to provide military aid. The fourth is to send advisers. The fifth is to send overwhelming force. The leap from the fourth level to the fifth is the hardest to master. Overwhelming force should almost never be used. But when advisers and aid do not solve a problem that must urgently be solved, then the only type of force that can be used is overwhelming force. Roman legions were used sparingly, but when they were used, they brought overwhelming power to bear.

I have been deliberately speaking of the United States as an empire, knowing that this term is jarring. Those who call the United States an empire usually mean that it is in some sense evil. Others will call it anything else if they can. But it is helpful to face the reality the United States is in. It is always useful to be honest, particularly with yourself. But more important, if the United States thinks of itself as an empire, then it will begin to learn the lessons of imperial power. Nothing is more harmful than an empire using its power carelessly.


The current balancing act in the Middle East represents a fundamental rebalancing of American strategy. It is still clumsy and poorly thought out, but it is happening. And for the rest of the world, the idea that the Americans are coming will become more and more rare. The United States will not intervene. It will manage the situation, sometimes to the benefit of one country and sometimes to another.

Riaz Haq said...

From NY Times:

The news media, which previously treated the party (MQM) with caution, has aired criticism of the party. (Among those arrested was a Muttahida supporter charged with the murder of Wali Khan Babar, a prominent television journalist who was shot dead in his car in 2011.) And in the city’s political back rooms, senior Muttahida officials have begun to quietly consider the possibility of a new leader — an unthinkable idea until recently.

Continue reading the main story
“The fear factor is gone,” said a senior party official who, like several others, spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution.

But the upheaval has also brought worries of new instability in a city that is awash with armed groups. Noting that Karachi is in a “state of flux,” the newspaper Dawn warned in an editorial this month that “when the chips fall, they may not do so without considerable violence.”

The moves against Muttahida are part of a broader effort to stem a cycle of political and criminal violence that has left Karachi prone to Taliban infiltration in recent years. Militants disrupted election campaigning in 2013, leading to a crackdown that has broken several Taliban cells, according to police officials and ethnic Pashtun community leaders.

Now the authorities have turned their attention to the armed wings of the city’s political parties, of which Muttahida is by far the largest.

But few are writing off Mr. Hussain, a wily political player with a long record of survival, just yet.

For much of the 1990s, Mr. Hussain’s supporters waged a street war against the security forces in Karachi, only to ultimately re-emerge stronger than ever.

Since then, he has enjoyed unquestioned support from the city’s Mohajir population — mostly Urdu-speaking families that migrated from India in 1947 — by playing on their sense of grievance at the hands of local ethnic groups, creating a magnetic cult of personality in the process.

This time, however, the challenges also come from within. Mr. Hussain’s stewardship of the party has become increasingly erratic recently, several officials said.

In addresses to party rallies in Karachi, delivered over the phone from London (his usual mode of communication with the party faithful), he frequently appears to be under the influence of alcohol, they said.

During one lengthy tirade on March 30, Mr. Hussain publicly resigned his leadership and urged his followers to take up charity work, only to reappoint himself hours later.

“We never know if it’s going to be happy hour or sad hour,” said one senior official who privately advocated a change in leadership and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

To many, it seems clear that the Pakistani military, which has a long history of meddling in politics, is trying to engineer a change in leadership. Journalists say the videotaped accusations from Mr. Mirza, the death-row convict, bore the hallmarks of a military intelligence operation.

In political circles, the army has started to take informal soundings about a possible successor to Mr. Hussain, the same party official said.

“They want to keep the M.Q.M., but without Altaf or anyone directly associated with violence,” he said.

But experts warn that such a strategy is fraught with danger. “If the M.Q.M. implodes, what will happen to Karachi?” said Laurent Gayer, author of “Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City,” a recent book on Karachi. “It seems that few people are thinking about the consequences of a militarized, fragmented party.”


Mr. Hussain looked unsteady as he pushed through reporters at the entrance to the London police station on Tuesday. He has said a large sum of money found at his house — about $650,000, party officials say — came from legitimate political donations.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan and #SaudiArabia reconcile after rift over #Yemen. Gen Raheel Sharif visits King. #Pakistan can mediate.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are resetting their relationship, which was dealt a major setback earlier this year when Islamabad refused to join the Saudi war in Yemen.

Pakistan's chief of army staff, General Raheel Sharif, visited Riyadh last week and held talks with King Salman, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, and Defense Minister Prince Muhammad bin Salman. A joint Saudi-Pakistani military exercise was also concluded. The Saudi media hailed the visit as an end to the "somewhat cool" period that followed the unanimous vote in the Pakistani parliament last April against sending any troops to join the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The vote was followed by a wave of editorials in the Pakistani press harshly critical of the Kingdom. This criticism was highly unusual given the long history of close relations between the two states. Pakistan deployed thousands of soldiers in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s to deter any aggression by Iran against the Kingdom, for example, and Saudi Arabian money has helped bankroll Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. There are also 1.5 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia.

The chief of army staff's visit will help repair the rift over Yemen, but doubts about Pakistan's reliability will persist in the Gulf. Promises to come to the defense of the Kingdom and especially the two holy cities are taken with some question marks by the Gulf's royal families, especially in Abu Dhabi.

For their part, senior Pakistanis have doubts about the stability of the succession process in Saudi Arabia. They are monitoring carefully the king's son, Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who is also deputy crown prince as well as defense minister, and who is very ambitious. The king has already deposed one crown prince this year, his brother Prince Muqrin, with no explanation. Many Pakistanis are also unhappy with the Saudi response to the tragic stampede at the Hajj this year, in which dozens of Pakistanis were killed.

Given its neutral stand in the Yemen conflict, Pakistan could play a critical role in any peace agreement there by providing the core of a peace keeping force to oversee a cease-fire. Pakistan has a long history of providing excellent forces to United Nations peacekeeping missions. It is also experienced in managing Sunni-Shia sectarian tensions, which will be crucial to any peace process in Yemen. General Sharif will be in Washington later this month and should be quietly encouraged to lean forward to assist ending the war that Islamabad wisely stayed out of.